Would You Pay $2K To Be In A National Magazine? The Story of Megan Jean and the KFB

image from i1.ytimg.comGuest post by indie artist Megan Jean of Megan Jean and the KGB.

Recently, my band Megan Jean and the KFB
was contacted by Relix Magazine to be included on a sampler CD they include
with all of their issues, which boasts a readership of of 360,000 people
worldwide. They said they loved our music over there at Relix, and we thought
that was awesome. Their magazine is all about breaking up-and-coming bands, and
has been doing so at a grassroots level for decades.

They courted us as
Musicians, under the pretext that they were interested in our material. The
first thing I should point out is that this man's job title at Relix is
"Senior Sales Executive," not "Journalist." I wrote back,
curious what they would need from us, if we were in fact interested. Then came
the sales pitch:

image from larrykeel.com"The CD comes bound inside every issue
we print (over 100,000 copies). Tracks normally run for about $3,000. HOWEVER,
as a first time advertiser I would like to offer it to you for $1,800.
Basically a steal considering its going to hit thousands of ears across the
country. I can package the track with an On the Rise spot for a total of
$2,000. The On the Rise spot is about the size of a business card and can
contain the images of your choice, text and website of your choice. The track
will also come with a 50 word bio in the magazine and will be placed on
Relix.com to be streamed for free, so
there is an online component as well….Also, each track that is submitted has
the opportunity to have that album reviewed and 
placed in our album review section….Only
catch is, we would need a really quick turnaround…we master and burn the
compilation this coming Monday!"

Now the Musicians are being courted as
First-Time Advertisers, with no more mention of our music, or our talent. The
exchange had changed course, from feeding on the hopes and dreams of a
struggling musician, to presenting a "deal" for a first-time
advertiser. Well, which category do DIY musicians fall into? Are we struggling
artists, desperate enough to believe a well-known music magazine like Relix
would or could ever simply stumble across our music and *gasp* like it enough
to give it a break? Or, are we small business owners who know and understand
the value of advertising and paid placements in well-read trade magazines?

image from www.meganjean.net

Realistically, DIY musicians need to be both, but Relix is hoping for the
former, which is exactly why they use this classic ACT NOW sales tactic. They
are counting on your desire to have your music heard at all costs, so they
couple it with a rushed 5-day deadline will make you jump on a coveted spot
that had "opened up," and normally wouldn't even be offered to you.
The trick is to look not at the offer, but at WHO is offering it. Is it a sales
rep, or a journalist? 

I have no problem with paid placements, but I
think both music-makers AND music-lovers need to be aware of their existence in
major music publications. I also have no doubt that there is some measure of
legitimate exposure that comes with paying to be included on such a sampler.
The issue I take with this practice however, is that it's predatory and
dishonest, not only to the bands who believe they are being contacted on the
merits of their music, but also to the readership who believe that Relix Mag
dutifully seeks out and promotes the finest up-and-coming bands in America.

Relix magazine's tagline is "It's all about the music," and not
"It's all about who paid enough for us to write about them." Keep in
mind, Relix was started in 1974 as a newsletter to connect people who
bootlegged Grateful Dead concerts. With offers for paid placements in "Up
and Coming" articles and album reviews written for a fee, just how much of
Relix nowadays is comprised paid placements? Moreover, as a band, is that the
kind of music-mill press you'd like for your yourself? As a music-lover, is
that the kind of music you'd like to be listening to from a magazine you turn
to for inspiration? As far as bands considering this sort of offer, reach out
to other bands who have been featured, and ask them if they thought it was
worth the money. I guarantee you'll get a better picture that way. If you feel
the exposure is worth the price tag, and you have those resources available to
you, then it's more of a calculated risk than a swindle.

image from thumbs.dreamstime.comA Look At The Numbers

But first, consider
all the things $2000 will buy your DIY band (for us, that's 2000 cds, which
sold at $10 a piece will net us $18K in profit, a much tidier sum). $2000 is
also roughly the cost of a small online content-marketing campaign though a PR
agency, which might also be a more organized, genre-specific, and focused way
to to get your music heard.

As to the larger and more philosophical
questions raised, as to where to pour your heart out for a price, and where to
turn to for inspiration? I find it's all a lot closer to home than you think.
Local blogs at local venues and festivals, that's where you'll get your best start. 
After all, it's music fans that build a career, not paid

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  1. I’d pay it. If there really are 360,000 people who are going to get this CD and if even as little as 0.01% of them like your song enough to buy an album at $10 (like you said) you’ve sold 3600 albums ($36,000 – $2000 investment = $34000) which is double the money you would have made had you invested it like you said in buying and selling 2000 cds (which who knows how long that could take).

  2. Sounds like you saved yourself 2k, Megan Jean; money– which would probably be better spent re-investing in your band or hiring some good PR.
    Thanks for the cautionary tale.
    On another note… checked out your video “These Bones.” Will tweet.

  3. I got offered the same deal for our band. We passed. We don’t tour, and these days I don’t think anybody buys music from bands they are not standing in front of, so it didn’t add up at all for us.

  4. I think I am pretty obsessed with finding good, new music, but I have never heard of Relix magazine. I have, however, been to two of your shows in Beaufort,NC, continue to listen to your music constantly on Spotify, and recently purchased both of your cds at the last show–so, I’d say you’re doing something right! Keep it up! =)I guess I should check out Relix magazine now–ha!

  5. what b.s. you’re looking for a problem where there isn’t one. all this indicates is that you don’t have much experience with music magazines. all CD compilations like this are considered to be paid ad spots. this is a very old practice. but yes, for a magazine like relix, the music on the CD in their magazine still has to be good! so, no, it’s not a conflict at all and there’s nothing dishonest about it. but if you only have about $1800 to spend on marketing your music, this may not be the best way to spend it when you could put that money into publicity or radio promotion or social media marketing. but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with what relix is doing.

  6. How much does 100K CDs cost to manufacture? Let’s say for easy math’s sake it’s 25% of what a band running 2000 would pay….that’s $25K.
    How many paid tracks on each CD? Let’s say 12. At $2K a pop, we’re talking $24K.
    Even if my numbers are off, clearly no one is getting rich here. Do they sell more magazines by including a CD? Maybe….but the print industry is in the toilet. Definitely it gives the magazine a higher perceived value by packaging it with a disc.
    Bottom line, it’s a way to potentially be heard by more people. I’ve used $2K publicists before….and truth, they probably couldn’t get you into Relix (or Paste, or Rolling Stone, or Acoustic Songwriter, etc) on the editorial side either.

  7. My band Twice Baked received the exact same offer from Relix about a year ago. I suspect that they got our name from Jambase or Reverbnation or the like (filtering by genre “jamband”). He said in the email that he “liked our music”, but he did not specify any songs by name, so I doubt that the sales rep heard our music before sending us the form email (our music IS good, but our lyrics glamorize recreational controlled substance use so most publications would obviously not want to be seen as endorsing what we sing about).
    It was tempting, but I had to pass because I wasn’t sure whether the $2k investment would result in at least 200 $10 cd sales to cover it. I also wasn’t sure where I’d get the initial $2000…
    Like you, one day I’ll grab a copy of Relix and a couple months later contact one of the not yet famous bands on the sampler (the sampler also includes songs by famous jambands who can afford $2000 every other month as part of their ongoing promotional budget, so they don’t count) to see how they did as a result. Did they suddenly start moving thousands of cd’s? Or hardly any new cd sales?
    My other question is whether 360K issues are sold to actual individual people, or just distributed to record stores, with 260K unsold magazines ending up in the recycling bin each month?

  8. Great great story and thanks for sharing guys. We need this type of info. I agree that the print industry is being flushed. How many more people could you reach if you spent that money producing/recording a music video? It honestly seems like music in general is becoming a niche in itself. Music used to drive the culture, now it’s tech. You’re lucky if you can get someone to click a youtube link because that’s visual and has the potential to be immediately gratifying IF it is good. IF it is fantastic they might click the share button. Magazines, press releases, newspapers..those days are already over. The old white guys just don’t know it yet.

  9. We are in exactly the same position right now. Got the email from them a couple days ago. Thanks for posting this. We’re based out of Nashville where there is a lot of legitimate music industry knowledge and I asked around and found a couple of other bands who did follow through with this offer and said that as far as they could tell it had zero tangible impact, no gigs booked, no change in FB likes, etc. They are a great band too. So, we are going to decline. I agree that there are lots of ways to promote one’s band… like this! Check out The Trails Music !!! 🙂

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